In Johnson City, Tennessee, a dozen teenagers are participating in the Storefront Art Project which is designed to reduce crime, revitalize struggling neighborhoods and help offenders find a role in the community upon release. The program was funded by an $800,000 federal grant under the Targeted Community Crime Reduction Project which collaborates with local law enforcement to develop crime prevention and reintroduction solutions.
The federal grant awarded to Johnson City through the Targeted Community Crime Reduction Project will be used to further fund efforts set in motion in 2010 to reduce crime, create new opportunities in the community for at-risk populations and enable a smoother re-entry into society for offenders being released.
The federal program hones in on four components to community safety and development:
- Neighborhood revitalization
- Offender intervention
As part of the preventive measures to reduce crime, the federal grant will support the Positive Action education after school program and the PATROL (Police and Teens Reaching Opportunities for Life) initiative. The final products of these programs, such as artwork, are then displayed throughout the community as part of the revitalization component.
Students participating in the programs are mentored by teachers, adults in the community or law enforcement professionals eager to inspire teenage passions or encourage the development of valuable skills outside the classroom.
The after-school programs are designed to not only deter teens away from a life of crime, but also explain the difference between smart and poor decisions rather than simply punish bad behavior. Creating a dialogue and opening up new opportunities for self-expression is considered key to molding the young adults into active, engaged community members.
The police mentorship program brings at-risk youth into the world of law enforcement to gain first-hand experience in protecting the neighborhood and identifying right from wrong. Creating an interest in preserving the community might boost youth participation as adults and lower crime rates.
The neighborhood revitalization programs focus on trash pick-up, graffiti removal and improvements to housing and commercial buildings. The offender intervention component is more aligned with finding a constructive role for a released offender once they re-enter the community to reduce recidivism rates.
In Tennessee, the state is awarded TCCRP grants to communities that demonstrate specific needs such as above average incidence rates for violence, drug-related crime or domestic abuse. The grants are designed to address criminal activity in the community from first offenses to high recidivism rates.
The communities provided with funding most keep track of each program’s performance to evaluate the efficacy of pre-enforcement prevention and enforcement approaches specifically. Local government agencies must team up with businesses, nonprofit organizations and law enforcement to development and implement the strategies throughout the community.
Each program must have multiple prongs to its setup, involve collaboration between organizations and generate measureable results to reduce crime immediately and in the future, while reducing recidivism. Data and analysis will help guide selection of communities to receive funding, performance of the measures and opportunities to extend the reach into other communities.